Magic hummed within him, coiled beneath his skin. It sang, its song filling his ears. Part of him was tempted to sing along, to let the power take him, but he restrained himself. He could do that later, when he was in the correct location. For now, though, he simply needed to copy down the beautiful runes.
The spells of his people (and the Patryns too, he reminded himself) were based on possibilities. If it was possible and a powerful enough wizard knew the correct spell, it could be done. But what if someone invoked the possibility that another possibility would be removed from existence? What if he invoked the possibility that his people were permanently dead, would never return to the twisted cursed life of Abarrach's ghouls?
Writing down that spell, perfecting it, took the better part of an hour- not that he knew how long it had taken, of course. He was in a trance, dazed by the wonderful music of magic that was his birthright.
He had the spell. That was technically all he needed to achieve his goals: just cast the spell in the mausoleum and all will be well. They will be safe. At least from that kind of desecration.
The Sartan imagined what the dragon-snakes and lazar and their foul ilk would do once they discovered that his family and friends could never be awakened. A deep shudder ran through his skinny frame. No. Better to protect them further, to defend the tomb so thoroughly that no one would ever set foot in the final resting place.
With that in mind, he began to scribe a defensive spell.
"Sartan!" Haplo grabbed the quill from the older man's hand.
Alfred started awake, blinked in confusion. He felt dazed, dizzy, and slightly angry. "What was that for?" he demanded, reaching for his quill.
"I've been asking you about the Kenkari for the past ten minutes," Haplo grumbled. "You didn't answer, so I took away your distraction."
"…The Kenkari?" Alfred's mind was still filled with soft music, with runes and dance. Not elves or cults or prophetesses.
"Bane doesn't know anything about their stronghold," the Patryn explained. "Do you?"
"No. May I have my quill back, please?"
Haplo was suspicious. "Are you just saying that to get rid of me?"
"Of course not. I never went anywhere near their temple. The Kenkari…. They know things."
"All sorts of things. I was afraid that if I went to them, they would see through my disguise."
"And then they'd have worshipped you as a god," Haplo muttered. "How terrifying."
Alfred flushed. "They would have seen my weakness as well, you know. I didn't want them to take advantage of me. They seemed like the people most likely to do so, if only because they alone were likely to recognize me as a Sartan."
"In other words, you know nothing useful."
"Not really." Alfred gestured impatiently for his quill. "I'd like that back now."
Bane arched a brow. "Don't you care that Haplo's going to break into their temple and steal the book?"
"Do you have a better idea?" the Patryn demanded.
The Sartan considered. Well, it wasn't like the Kenkari were actually using the book, and he was a bit of a book thief himself…. "Replicate it," he suggested. Then he lunged, swiped his quill from Haplo's hand. Smiling triumphantly, Alfred went back to designing his defense system. This spell here, that one there….
"What is it this time?" Alfred demanded, annoyed. Couldn't Haplo see that he was trying to work? How was he supposed to defend his people if he kept getting interrupted every five seconds?
"We can't be," he protested. "I've only been working for a few…. Oh." He frowned at the huge stacks of paper before him.
"For three days straight. Without eating, drinking, or doing anything to take care of yourself." Haplo's lips twitched in amusement.
Alfred yawned as his body's needs caught up with him. Without the magical trance sustaining him, he was reminded of his body's needs. Mage or not, he was still a living creature. He needed food and drink and sleep.
"Here." Haplo offered him a cup.
Alfred gulped down the clear water, amazed at how good it felt to drink. "Thank you," he said once the liquid was gone.
Haplo shrugged. "Do you do that often?"
"Not anymore." Alfred shook his head. His stomach grumbled. "As a young man I would sometimes enter a waking dream when my research became particularly interesting. Of course, then I had people to check up on me if I didn't appear for a day or so." He chuckled softly, remembering a particularly humorous incident.
"Good thing you stopped, then," Haplo muttered. "You'd have starved to death otherwise."
"Go to sleep," Haplo ordered.
Alfred thought back to his trance. He was fairly certain that he'd finished everything…. Yes, he had. He'd just been working on his mental maps, that was all. He could sleep. He let Haplo lead him to a pile of blankets, stumbling and yawning with tiredness.
"Aren't you going to put a sleep spell on him?" Bane demanded as Alfred curled up in a corner. "What if he tries to escape while you're gone?"
"He won't," Haplo assured the human.
Bane's eyes narrowed. "You seem awfully trusting of a Sartan."
"Just hex me," Alfred called. His words were unclear, slurred with sleepiness. "I don't mind. Turnabout's fair play, you know."
"I doubt that you'll need it," Haplo muttered, "seeing as you've been awake for three days, but whatever." He ambled over to the Sartan (who was already beginning to snore) and cast the spell.
"What did he mean that 'turnabout's fair play'?" Bane demanded.
"You think I understand what goes on in that head of his?" Haplo retorted.
"Well, I don't. Ask Alfred what he was talking about when he wakes up. I have to leave now." He patted the dog on the head- no need to take him along; two intruders would be far more noticeable than one- and climbed down to the ground.
Haplo had parked his dragonship nearby a trio of other vessels. The Kenkari had quite a few guests, being important religious figures and all, so Haplo's ship blended right in- especially with a couple charms that would increase the likelihood of no one noticing it or the runes covering its sides.
The Patryn made no sound as he crept towards the Cathedral of the Albedo. Old instincts that he had nurtured in the Labyrinth came rushing back. His senses expanded: night was as bright as day, insects buzzing were as loud as his dog's barks. He chanted softly, wrapped himself in magic, and slid past the few elves still up at this late hour without being noticed.
Since neither Alfred nor Bane had known anything about the temple's layout, Haplo was forced to wander for a while. Fortunately, he, like most other Patryns who had been born and raised in a Labyrinth, had an excellent head for directions. As he walked, a map formed in his head. This led here, that led there, turning left at this intersection would lead him back to the exit.
He approached yet another hall. He'd already turned right here. Let's try turning left….
Haplo slipped into the room at the end of the hall and froze.
He had found the library, all right, a huge room filled with enough books to make Alfred salivate. But, despite the incredibly late hour, it was occupied by three elves, all of whom were looking directly at him. So much for his magical cloak.
"Please, come in, Haplo," said the elf in the center.
The Patryn fixed him with a searching glare. "That's not my name," he lied. Bad enough that the elves had somehow inexplicably caught him- no, worse, that they'd been waiting for him. He did not want them to know who he was.
But how had they known?
The elf was not impressed. "Oh? Krenka-Anris informed me that Haplo son of Per and Jana would be paying us a visit tonight as he came to steal one of our order's most valuable possessions."
Haplo was dazed, flummoxed. For one wild moment he wondered if Alfred had somehow betrayed him- but that was impossible. The Sartan hadn't eaten or slept, much less snuck off to conspire with the very elves he least wanted to meet. Besides, Alfred didn't know his parents' names. Haplo hadn't even remembered their names. Not until tonight.
Per and Jana….
Alfred's voice. The Kenkari…. They know things.
The Kenkari were looking at him, waiting for his response.
"If you know what I'm here for, then you know why I want the book." No point in playing dumb. They knew.
The elves nodded. "Krenka-Anris instructed us to give it to you," the one in the middle admitted, "but she first desires to speak with you, the other Patryn, and the Sartan."
The female elf by his side leaned forward in anticipation, gazing about as though she expected the others to materialize from the woodwork. Haplo didn't notice. He just scowled at the first elf. "There aren't any other Patryns on my ship."
"Yes there is," the other man retorted. "A woman, a spy, the mother of your child."
The world went white. Haplo's lungs compacted, forcing the air from his body. He was frozen as though in ice, paralyzed in shock. His heart pounded in his veins, drowning out the elf's next few words. If a dragon-snake had appeared then and there, the stupefied Patryn would have died, completely incapable of defending himself.
Something like calm returned, hopefully before the elves noticed how absolutely stunned he was. "I don't know what you're talking about," he growled.
"Krenka-Anris told us to speak with the emissary, the spy, and the Sartan. She does not lie."
"Good for her." Haplo sent an order to the dog, which had been sleeping across the room from Alfred. The canine whined, unhappy that his sleep had been interrupted, but padded out into the ship anyways.
If the woman- if Marit- was really there, he wanted to know. He had to know. Especially if she was a spy, for there was only one person with enough authority to make her his eyes and ears.
He prayed that she was there, prayed that she wasn't. He wanted to see her again, to apologize, to ask about their child…. But not now. Not when her presence meant that Xar distrusted him so much, that his lord and father was so deeply influenced by the dragon-snakes….
The elves hadn't responded to his last comment. The woman looked slightly offended, but that was it. No words, no gestures, nothing. Just uncanny silence and staring eyes that knew too much.
"Bring her out, then," Haplo snapped. A second after he said it he realized how stupid his demand was. Krenka-Anris was dead, had died while the Sartan were still strong. Dead people didn't- he thought of Abarrach and stiffened. Necromancy?
"We cannot," said the other male elf, the one who hadn't spoken yet. "We speak to her in spirit only."
Haplo remembered one of the few things Bane had known about the Kenkari: they guarded the souls of the dead. Not their foul, moldering corpses brought back to a hideous half-life. Their souls, not their bodies. They obviously had Krenka-Anris's soul hanging around somewhere, strengthening the magic of their people.
The Patryn weighed his options. He could force them to hand over the book, but did he really want to make the most powerful elves on Arianus his enemies? No single elf could take down a Patryn, but if they attacked en masse…. Not to mention that these elves knew things they had no right to know. What else did they know? A way to defeat the dragon-snakes?
"Do whatever ceremony you need to," he ordered. "I'll get them." He spun on his heel, stalked into the hall, looking a great deal more dignified and in control than he actually felt.
A spy on his ship (maybe, but looking quite likely). Elves who knew he was coming. Alfred's mood swings. Bane's scheming.
…at least the dog was a constant, faithful companion.
He sent his thoughts out towards the dog, which was following an unfamiliar scent through the ship. Magic and female mixed together, too young to belong to the ship's builder. Faint, hidden by magic, but still there. The dog trotted up to a closed door, the end of the trail, and plopped down onto his haunches.
When Haplo arrived at the door, his dog whined apologetically. Sorry, Master, but I can't open doors. The Patryn stroked his pet's head, offering forgiveness. He didn't begrudge the dog's lack of thumbs.
The dog stretched, first forward, then back, before looking expectantly up at its master. Why didn't you open the door? Don't you want to find the lady?
Haplo opened the door.
She looked just like he remembered her, though a bit older: chestnut hair with white tips, round face, pointed chin, young and strong and lean. Beautiful. Dressed in the clothes of the Labyrinth, tough fabrics that would last a long, long time. She even slept in the same position, all curled up into a little ball.
If the dog hadn't licked his new friend on her face, Haplo would have stood there staring for a long, long time. But the dog, bored by his master's lack of action, dragged his slobbery tongue across the woman's cheek. Her gold flecked eyes snapped open as she reached instinctively for a weapon.
Haplo swallowed, breathed in. "Hello, Marit."
Poor Haplo. Life ain't looking good for him, eh? But I kind of needed this to happen, because Weis and Hickman didn't exploit the Kenkari enough. I mean, psychic elves? Why visit them without asking for your fortune told? Though I have a feeling that life aboard the ship will be fairly miserable for a while (except for Alfred, who still needs to sleep it off. Silly Sartan).